Older people are hard hit by the bosses’ cuts and sell-offs. Sue Powell spoke to Claude Mickleson, National Pensioners Convention activist and member of Gloucestershire Socialist Party.

National Pensioners Convention march against NHS privatisation, photo by Alison Hill

National Pensioners Convention march against NHS privatisation, photo by Alison Hill   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Claude – as someone who served in World War Two, were you offended when Jeremy Corbyn didn’t sing the national anthem?

He attended the ceremony and showed his respect. The anthem is all about the monarchy.

When you fought in North Africa, were you ‘serving king and country’?

No – I suppose we all thought we were fighting fascism.

I am convinced that the only people who benefit from wars are the capitalist class. They make vast sums of money from them.

Some supplying arms to both sides, or by increased markets and territory. None of which benefits the working class, who have to do the fighting.

Did the capitalists treat soldiers returning from war well?

Well I couldn’t get anywhere to live. My wife and I had no kids so we couldn’t get help with housing. We lived in a caravan for several years.

I suffered from poor hearing due to the sound of the aircraft I worked on, but my claim to compensation was turned down. Many others were treated similarly.

Have things improved?

Things improved at first, with the founding of the welfare state. But since the late 1970s conditions have gradually deteriorated.

I fear they could become worse even than the 1920s and ’30s, when I grew up.

And are pensioners treated well today?

No they are not.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance research director said the Conservatives should cut older people’s benefits sooner rather than later. Because many of us would “not be around”, or would have forgotten who was responsible, by next election.

Winter fuel allowance was provided as a sop by Gordon Brown to keep us quiet about poor pensions. Thatcher altered the goal posts as to how they are calculated in 1980. Labour refused to re-instate them during 13 years in power.

Tens of thousands of older people in Britain already die specifically from the cold each year – more than in any European country except Estonia.

The Tories have always resented every gain achieved by the working class. We were never given anything for which we didn’t have to fight hard.

Is that why you’re so active?

I suppose I am trying to make up for lost time. I’m 92 and want to make sure we can build towards a mass movement. I may not live to see socialism, but I am sure younger generations will.

Corbyn offers hope, but I don’t trust the Labour Party. It always seems to fall short of socialism because they don’t go for public ownership of the bulk of the economy.

That’s what is needed: public ownership and workers’ control. Accountability. Councillors who refuse to implement cuts.